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Candy Darling was a Warhol Superstar who led a life of parties, men, and disappointments, but the one constant in her life was style. Even on her deathbed, Darling stayed true to who she was, a Hollywood glamour puss.
Born in Long Island in 1944, Darling spent her childhood idolizing Hollywood. In this world, she learned about glamour, which exuded from the fabulous women on her screen. From then and there, she wanted to become a famous actress.
Darling’s love for cinema may have also been a form of escapism from her less than charming childhood. Darling was an only child of divorced parents who was often bullied; a group of boys once attempted to lynch her when she was 16, which caused her to drop out of high school.
Although she was born a male named Jimmy, she identified as a female. It was only her outside appearance that appeared masculine. In order to embrace, and be accepted, for her true self was a difficult task for anyone in the conservative suburbs of Long Island during the 1940s and 1950s.
Darling often escaped this world for the excitement of local gay bars or the Manhattan LGBTQIA scene. There she could be herself, dressed to the nines as a woman. It was during one of these trips that Darling’s mother spotted her in public and confronted her when she arrived home, who was then back in her boy drag. Darling instructed her mother to sit at the kitchen table while she went to change into her evening attire. Her mother later said to a friend, “I knew then… that I couldn’t stop Jimmy. Candy was just too beautiful and talented.”
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Darling’s acting aspirations took off when she met Andy Warhol. Attracted to her outgoing personality and beauty, Warhol saw her potential as a star. How could he not? She was the living embodiment of Marilyn Monroe, Joan Bennet, and Jean Harlow all in one.
As a Warhol Superstar, Darling’s personal aesthetic was a combination of Hollywood nostalgia and 1970s bohemian. She blended prints with furs and lace, and because of her tall frame, she never veered into tacky territory. She accessorized these looks with platinum hair, patterned headscarves, and kohl-rimmed eyes.
At the young age of 29, Darling died of lymphoma. Her funeral was a star-studded event with Gloria Swanson saluting the coffin. While in the hospital, Peter Hujar created the famous photo series “Candy Darling on her Deathbed,” which documented the actress in the hospital. Although extremely sick, she still looked like a movie star.
Candy was both brave and brilliant by just being herself. She once said, “There is one thing I must tell you because I just found it to be a truth …You must always be yourself no matter what the price. It is the highest form of morality.”
To learn more about Candy Darling, check out the 2010 documentary, Beautiful Darling.